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Glossary

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List of terms beginning with Ca

CA125

CA125 is a tumour marker (chemical) produced by many ovarian cancers. It can be used to monitor the success of treatment. CA125 is not produced by all ovarian cancers. It is sometimes produced in other conditions that are not cancers (for example, endometriosis and fibroids).

CA19-9

CA19-9 is a chemical (marker) produced by some types of cancer, which can be found in the blood. It is sometimes found in people with pancreatic cancer, but is also found in some other pancreatic conditions.

Caesium

Caesium is a metal. A radioactive form called caesium 137 is used to treat cancers of the cervix, uterus and vagina. It can also be used as thin wires to treat other types of cancer.

Calcification

Calcification is the process in which calcium builds up in body tissue where there normally isn't any calcium. It can occur in almost any part of the body. Over time, the calcification may stop that part of the body working normally.

Calcium

A substance which is essential to life. Calcium salts are needed for healthy bones and teeth. A small amount of calcium is found in the blood. If this level is too high (hypercalcaemia) or too low (hypocalcaemia) this can be dangerous. Levels of calcium can be measured with a blood test.

Calorie

A measurement of energy. One calorie is the energy needed to heat one gram of water by one degree centigrade. The amount of energy in food is measured in calories. There are 1000 calories in a kilocalorie.

Cancer

Cancer is a disease where body cells grow and divide uncontrollably. They can spread into nearby tissues, and may spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Cancerous tumours are called malignant.

Cancer centre

Cancer centres are hospitals where specialist teams treat a large number of people with cancer, particularly people with less common types of cancer or who need complex cancer tests or treatments.

Cancer networks

Cancer networks were established in the UK in 2000. Each network consisted of a number of NHS organisations working together to plan and provide services for people with cancer in their area. A network includes hospitals, health centres, hospices and social care providers. In April 2013 the networks were incorporated into Strategic Clinical Networks as part of an NHS reorganisation.

Cancer registries

Each region of the UK has a cancer registry. They collect and analyse statistics about how many people get each type of cancer in their area. They also collect and analyse statistics about cancer treatments and survival rates.

Cancer type

The part of the body where a cancer starts – for example, breast cancer. It may also mean the type of cell a cancer develops from – for example adenocarcinoma is cancer that developed from gland cells.

Cancer unit

A unit in a local hospital where the staff have expertise in diagnosing and treating common types of cancer. The unit is overseen by cancer consultants.

Cancer vaccines

Cancer vaccines are drugs that aim to prevent or treat cancer by stimulating the immune system.

Cannula

A tube put into the body to give or drain off fluid. It usually means a fine tube that goes into a vein.

Capillary network

System of the smallest blood vessels found throughout the body. The capillaries connect the bigger blood vessels, such as arteries and veins, and take oxygen and nutrients directly to the body cells.

Capsular contracture

A complication of breast reconstruction surgery using an implant. After the operation, a fibrous covering (capsule) gradually forms around the implant. In some women the capsule can shrink over some months or years and may become tight, making the implant change shape.

Capsule endoscopy

Capsule endoscopy is a diagnostic test to look at the small bowel. You swallow a small camera in the form of a capsule. This takes pictures as it passes through your digestive system.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate is one of the three major food groups. The other groups are protein and fats. Carbohydrates are made up of simple sugars linked together. They are a source of energy for the body and are involved in many important chemical processes in the body. There are many different kinds of carbohydrates.

Carbon dioxide

A waste gas from the body tissues. The carbon dioxide is absorbed into the blood, then filters back into the alveoli (air sacs in the lungs) and is breathed out.

Carboplatin

A chemotherapy drug.

Carcinoembryonic antigen

Carcinoembryonic antigen is a marker (chemical) used to help diagnose some types of cancer, such as bowel cancer. It is called CEA for short. CEA can also be used to check whether the cancer may have come back (recurred). It is not always a reliable test for cancer. The level can go up due to other illnesses and it does not always go up in everyone with bowel cancer.

Carcinogen

Something that causes cancer.

Carcinoid tumour

Carcinoid tumours are rare tumours that start in the neuroendocrine system, which is made up of nerve and gland cells that make hormones. Carcinoid tumours most often start in the small bowel or appendix but can occur in other parts of the body. They usually grow slowly.

Carcinoma

A cancer that starts in epithelial tissue. Epithelial tissue covers all the body organs and lines all the body cavities (for example, skin). Most cancers are carcinomas.

Carcinoma in situ

An early cancer that has not broken through the basement membrane of the tissue it is growing in. So it cannot spread anywhere else in the body and can usually be cured by removing it surgically.

Carcinomatosis

Means that a cancer has spread to many different areas of the body. Or sometimes, cancer is affecting a large area of the body. It may also be called carcinosis.

Cardiac sphincter

The valve between the bottom of the food pipe and the top of the stomach. The valve opens to allow food to pass into the stomach but stops the stomach contents moving back up into the food pipe (oesophagus).

Cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is a group of diseases that affect the heart or blood vessels. It includes hardening of the arteries, angina, high blood pressure, heart attacks and strokes.

Carer

An informal carer helps or supports someone who is ill, frail or disabled and is not paid for the care they give. The person they look after may be a family member, a friend, a spouse or partner who could not manage without their help. This is different to care workers, or care assistants, who are paid for looking after people.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is caused by pressure on a nerve that passes through the wrist into the hand. It causes pain, a weaker grip, and numbness and tingling in one or both hands, particularly in the fingers and thumb. The name comes from the passageway the nerve passes through – the carpal tunnel.

Cartilage

Dense, tough tissue that lines the joints. A cancer of cartilage is called a chondrosarcoma.

Cataract

A cataract is a clouding of part of the eye called the lens. Your vision becomes blurred because the cataract is like a frosted glass and blocks some light from getting into the eye.

Catheter

A tube passed into the body to drain away fluid, such as a urinary catheter which drains urine from the bladder.

Cautery

Controlling bleeding or destroying an area of body tissue, using either a needle heated by an electric current, or a chemical substance.

Cavitation

Cavitation means that the centre of a tumour has died and a scan may show a hollowed out shell of cancer. This can be due to treatment or it may happen because the cancer grows faster than its blood supply.

Updated: 29 June 2016